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When we were invited by Paola Espina, owner and baker of Ola Cakes and Pastries, we thought that we will be visiting another cafe, something common in the BF Paranaque area. However, after reading through the history of this establishment, we were surprised to find a “kitchen studio”, a unique concept, especially for a start up cupcake business.

As a bit of a background, Pao is a self taught baker who started her love for baking at the age of 9. We could not even remember what we were doing at that age! Baking began as a hobby, which she continued doing even after landing a job in marketing. She, of course, loved to share her creations to family and friends, who later on began ordering from her. Eventually, she received an order for a wedding cake and from that fortunate incident, everything else followed.

As her clientele began to grow, this 27 year old home baker decided to turn her hobby into a full time business. From doing everything in their home, she decided to build her own “kitchen” and expand her reach. In November of last year, she opened Ola Cakes and Pastries – HQ. Yes, HQ for head quarters. As mentioned earlier, this is not your usual cafe/restaurant. The open kitchen concept is meant for her clients to see how she bakes her products. In fact, it is more of a pick up / take out station with a couple of tables for waiting and walk in clients who would want to enjoy a quick home made snack.

So, why Ola? Ola simply means hello and coincidently happens to be the last three letters in her name. Simple yet sweet.

First Impression

El Grande is fairly a quieter strip in BF Paranaque. Once we reached the store, we immediately noticed the cute, quirky exterior. With blue doors and pseudo grass entrance, we were convinced that this place has character. Seeing the interior did not disappoint either. The place is relatively small but it is obvious that the owner paid full attention to details.

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From chairs to frames to cups and utensils, to one corner shelf containing recipe books and display cookies, we can say everything is well put together. But what really caught our attention was the AROMA! Oh, the place smells really good, YUMMY GOOD. And we must say, this made us really excited to taste all the cupcakes displayed.

Upon entering, we were greeted by Pao and her 19 year old chef Louie. To our surprise, it was just them two doing everything, from running the kitchen and all the dirty work. That’s when we remembered that this is a “kitchen”, their head quarters. However small, they promise to continue to keep everything tasting and feeling home made.

Snacks and Beverages

Though the place is meant to be a take out / pick up station, items such as pastas, sandwiches, Nespresso coffee, and freshly brewed iced tea are also available.

During our visit, the first item they brought out was the lasagna with a plate of toast and vinaigrette dip on the side. Their pastas are prepared upon order and the lasagna normally takes 20 minutes to be served. Our first taste of their lasagna brought us back to our childhood, remembering Mom’s famous pasta dish. It definitely tasted home made, simple without the fancy herbs and ingredients. It was so cheesy, meaty, and saucy, just the way we like our lasagna. And they did not scrimp on the ingredients.

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They also added a twist to the usual balsamic vinegar and olive oil dip. To make the consistency thick, sugar was added to the mix, with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. The dish was paired with their freshly brewed iced tea, and we loved it that they do not use the usual powdered iced tea.

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Bestselling Cupcakes

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Red Velvet

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Their take on the red velvet cupcake came as a bit of a surprise. It was bitter from the cocoa, something new and interesting. The cream cheese frosting, more on the sweet side, balanced off the bitterness in the cupcake. We also went through a cupcake history lesson. Paola shared with us her research on the evolution of the red velvet and we learned that red velvet is just chocolate with red food coloring, putting a twist to the usual favourite.

Blueberry Cheesecake

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If you prefer your cheesecake to be light and not too sweet, you might actually like OLA’s version of this classic dessert. The blueberry topping was a bit too sweet for us which we think can still be improved by adding a more cheesy, salty taste.

Nutella Cups

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Something the kids will surely love. The salty taste of the cookie cup compliments the sweet nutella filling. Ola has perfected the sweet and salty mix with this one and this is a sure hit to all nutella lovers.

Black Forest

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This one stole our hearts. Paola made owned this recipe by using dark cherry for the topping and filling instead of the commonly used maraschino cherry. The dark cherry has more of an subtle sweetness that does not overpower the taste of the cake. Infused with cherry brandy and a hint of rum, this off-the-menu cupcake is definitely the surprise the store has been boasting about.

Cakes and more

Ola Cakes and Pastries also offer cakes but these have to be pre-ordered. They do customised cakes and desserts for weddings, birthday parties, and other events. Paola is not fond of fondants because as aesthetically nice as they may look, these are more often than not not eaten and end up in the trash. She may add a bit of fondant in her designs but still prefers buttercream to cover her cakes.

What to expect

For now, Ola Cupcakes and Pastries will focus on maintaining their open kitchen, on catering dessert tables for events, and at times in doing sponsorships. But ultimately, the goal is to expand and have cupcake stalls / carts in malls and later on open a full-fledged cafe and restaurant. Paola is still young, she is not in a rush and for now,  she simply wants to enjoy pursuing her passion, one day at a time.

Our Verdict

Cool concept for a start up.
We dig the interior and design.
Home made feel of the food and pastries definitely achieved.

Are we going back? Yes! We’d like to have a taste of their lasagna once again and more of the blueberry cupcake. They do have the full cake version as well so maybe we’ll get that one instead!